10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting A Freelancing Business
Updated: May 20
I’ve been freelancing for over 6 years, and that may not seem like a whole lot of time in the big picture, but I’ve learned a heck of a lot. When I decided to start a business, I had no plan beyond freelance writing and making money from my gift of research and writing.
But, along the way, I had more than a few learning moments. And some of them were hard lessons to learn. From that experience, I’m hoping to help you avoid those hard learning moments.
Keep reading to learn all about the 10 things I wish I knew before starting a business, so you can avoid making the mistakes I did!
1. Freelancing Is Hard, Even If It’s Worth It
Like Poison said, "Every rose has its thorn." It's great to have freedom and independence, and I love what I do, but it's tough. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend that you read my blog, Cold Hard Truths About Freelancing to learn more about some things that will hit you like a tonne of bricks.
There's just so much to do, and you're doing it all by yourself. It takes up a lot of time and energy.
That all being said, I made it hard on myself in a lot of ways, like not having a plan or any structure for myself. You don’t have to do that. Eventually, I learned a really important skill called time management, and that’s the key to balancing everything.
2. You Need To Get Legit & Legal ASAP
When you start a business, what you really need to do first is get it legit. That means a business license, account, and tax number. The works. A bank account is especially important because you need to separate your money from your business’s money or cash flow.
This is another mistake I made when I was first starting. I was literally living off of every cent I made, so I really couldn’t afford to at the time. But, that’s a story for another day.
Anyway, when I got serious about my business, getting a business license, bank account, and tax number was on the top of my to-do list. And, getting legit and legal like this should be on top of yours, too.
3. Without Marketing, You're Invisible
I thought I was so sly, thinking I could start a business (and actually make money) without doing any kind of marketing. I quickly learned that without promoting my freelancing business, I was completely invisible– and broke.
Total facepalm moment.
Marketing is crucial to any kind of business. I mean, how else are your customers going to find you? You need to put your business out there as soon as you start a business, so you can get seen by customers and make some money from your business.
Your marketing strategy doesn’t have to be costly. Advertising and SEM may cost money, but there are other forms of digital marketing that don’t. Social media and blogs are free and are two great ways to promote your business.
4. There’s No Fall Back When Work Is Slow
When you first start a business, things are really slow. It can take months or even years to build up a solid clientele that has regular work for you. Not to mention the savings to fall back on when they don’t.
I definitely didn’t realize this way back when I quit my job to start my freelance writing business. Full disclosure: there were times I couldn’t cover my bills, and I felt a lot of shame in having to borrow money from my mom, even though I paid it back.
That’s why it’s so important to have a financial backup plan before you start a business. There’s no salary or paycheque for you to fall back on. What your business brings in determines what you do.
5. You Still Need Structure When You Work For Yourself
When I left my 9-5, I was focused on the freedom freelancing would give me. I really zeroed in on the “free” part of freelancing. I wanted to be able to work from home or the barn. So at first, I was resistant to the typical work day schedule.
That was a mistake.
The lack of structure in my life only created chaos and terrible sleep habits. I worked all night and slept all day, practically wasting daylight (and hours I could be riding my horse) and just working at night.
After a while, I shook my head out of this nonsense and forced myself to stick to a proper schedule. I got myself a day planner and stuck to it until my workday routine became a habit. Make sure you have a proper routine set in place, not just for time management, but for your health, too.
6. Clients Won’t Always Come To You. You Will Have To Go To Them
Another thing that I struggled to accept when I began freelancing was having to go to clients, instead of them just coming to me. Now, I’m not exactly shy. But I’m pretty reserved when it comes to self-promotion.
But here’s the thing. Clients don’t always come to you. They don’t just show up out of now where. A lot of the time, you have to go to them, or at the very least, do some marketing to be visible to them.
Once you’ve gained traction and reviews, then clients will start coming to you. But even at that point, you’ll still have to do some outreach. Sometimes, that’s answering a job posting. Other times, it’s sending a cold email to a brand you want to work for.
7. Working All The Time Is Normal (But Not Forever)
If you’re looking to start a business so you can work one day a week, I’ve got some bad news for you. Yes, you can create your own schedule when you’re freelancing. But working one day a week is not going to pay your bills.
You still have to work. And in the beginning, it’s going to be a lot. When you start a business, you should be fully prepared to work long hours and a lot of weekends. It’s that kind of dedication that promotes success.
Bear in mind that once you start gaining traction and experience, you can scale your rates, make more money and eventually work less. But, this all comes with time.
8. You Will Have To Follow & Conform To Some Trends
Trends come and go, and not all of us like to follow them. However, staying up to date with trends can help you when you start a business. Depending on your industry and target audience, you may have to conform to some of those in order to stay relevant and grow.
This is one of those “your business isn’t about you, it’s about your customers” kinds of things. I also resisted it at first. But, if your customers want it, you’ve got to be able to serve it.
That doesn’t mean you have to totally conform to every trend. See what’s most popular with your competitor’s audience. Take those trends and make them your own.
9. There’s Much More Work Than You’re Paid For (In The Beginning)
When I first started freelancing, I had absolutely no idea how much time running a business would take. When you start a business, you’re spending so much more time running your business than providing your service or making your products.
That’s why hiring help is so critical. For creative entrepreneurs especially, having to be locked down at a desk to do all the bookwork running a business is extremely discouraging and can alter the way you see your business.
Also, if you don’t set a proper pricing model that reflects things like hired help, time and effort, skills, etc. Without a proper pricing model, none of your time or effort will mean anything. Why? Because, at the end of the day, you won’t make any money.
10. You’ll Need To Hire Help, Eventually
While you might not have the budget to do this when you first start a business, it’s an investment that almost always pays itself back. Not only do you get help running your business, but hiring help also allows you to grow your business much easier too.
When your tasks become too much to handle, you can outsource them to other freelancers or delegate them to a virtual assistant. Also, think about using apps to automate running your business, and spend more time actually doing what your business does.
If one of those things you need help with is content writing, I’d be happy to help! Email me at email@example.com to see what I can do to help you tod